100 Best: Penns Creek
Location: Northcentral Pennsylvania
Type of stream: Limestone/freestone
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Browns, Rainbows
Access: Easy and ample
Season: Year ‘round
Supporting Services: State College
Short take: Bigger means better
Handicapped Access: None
Closest TU Chapters: Penns Creek, Raymond B. Winter
Penns Creek and Fishing Creek are alike in many ways. Both are classic spring fed, freestone streams. Both have downcut through nests of mountains. Access is excellent. Both have special regulations sections. There the similarity ends. One word sums up the difference. Penns is simply bigger. Penns Creek offers about 30 miles of excellent fly fishing, with 2,300 trout per mile. Penns is known for prolific hatches especially green drakes which come off around Memorial Day.
The creek flows out of the mouth of Penns Cave, a tourist attraction east of State College. The cave’s owner has dammed the stream at the mouth of the cave to allow patrons to tour the cavern by boat. Below the dam, Penns Creek is posted for about five miles. That leaves just 30 for us to fish. Penns becomes public at the Village of Spring Mills where PA Rt. 45 crosses. From Spring Mills to Coburn, a distance of about six miles, the creek is classified by the Penna. Fish and Boating Commission, as approved trout waters meaning that it is stocked.
At Coburn, the stream is sluggish and worthy of little attention, Penns Creek’s fame begins. The combined waters of spring-fed Elk and Pine creeks enter just below the village and turn the creek into a small river. Like a shot of adrenalin, these flows also reinvigorate trout. Just below the confluence, Penns enters a seven-mile rift in the steep folded and faulted ridges. Gradient increases. Broad riffles tail into deep pools and swirl around big boulders tumbled down from the mountains long ago. An abandoned railroad grade turned foot trail/bike path, follows the course through the hills, and a mile’s walk in from either end will take you to waters that see only modest pressure.
Below Poe Paddy Campground, rules for fishing become catch and release for the next 4 miles. This is the most remote of the sections of Penns Creek. The railroad grade follows the river, and like most walk-in sections, the use it sees decreases with distance from the gates at the top or just above where Cherry Run enters west of the village of Weikert.